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Top two Western teams meet tonight at JLA

by Staff Writer / Detroit Red Wings

DETROIT -- The Red Wings and Dallas Stars are first and second in the Western Conference in both points and goals scored, respectively, but each team came up empty in both categories in its last game.

Both will try to get back on track as they meet for the first time this season on Wednesday at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.

The Red Wings (29-8-3) lead the NHL with 61 points and 141 goals and hadn't been shut out all season before Monday's 2-0 home loss to St. Louis, but Manny Legace turned back all 31 of his former teammates' shots on goal.

It was Detroit's fourth game in six days, and fifth in a row without injured first-line forwards Henrik Zetterberg (back spasms) and Tomas Holmstrom (knee injury).

"We had no juice in the tank, it's pretty obvious," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "I thought we did all right for about the first 10 minutes at the start of the game. We tried to push, but we didn't have any jump."

Zetterberg may return Wednesday, but his and Holmstrom's absence may have finally caught up with the Red Wings. Zetterberg leads the team with 25 goals and 25 assists for 50 points, while Holmstrom has 17 goals and 14 assists for 31 points.

Still, Detroit had won four in a row and scored at least four goals in each game without the duo until Monday, when the Red Wings were shut out for the first time since Feb. 8 - also by the Blues.

The Red Wings are 14-2-1 in their last 17 games, and 16-3-1 at home, the NHL's best home record. They've also had the luxury of alternating Dominik Hasek and Chris Osgood in net for the past seven games.

Hasek made 21 saves and allowed just one goal against the Blues, meaning Osgood could get the start against Dallas. Hasek's 2.78 goals-against average in 22 lifetime games against the Stars, however, is his worst against any NHL team except the Red Wings.

Detroit, which has not gone consecutive games without a point since a three-game losing streak from Nov. 11-17, went 3-0-1 against the Stars (23-13-4) last season. Dallas, though, won 4-3 in a shootout in Detroit in the most recent meeting last March.

Dallas also had a four-game winning streak snapped in its last game, a 1-0 home loss to Nashville on Monday. The Stars had also won eight of their previous nine, but managed just 22 shots on goal and went 0-for-6 on the power play.

"We just couldn't find that spark we needed tonight and basically had a lackluster performance," goalie Marty Turco told the Stars' official Web site. "Everything was just one step off. We don't like the last two games now and we've talked about it and will turn it around as we start the New Year. We'll learn from it and put this behind us."

The Stars, who have won four of their last five on the road, are still in second place in the Western Conference, just one point ahead of Pacific Division rival San Jose. They also have scored 122 goals, second-best in the West to the Red Wings.

While their power play has struggled in recent games - producing only two goals in 23 chances over their last five games - their league-best penalty kill (87.6 percent) has been as strong as ever. Dallas has killed off 21 straight penalties over its last six games entering Wednesday's contest.

That could be especially important against Detroit's power play, which is second in the NHL at 23.8 percent and 7-for-19 (36.8 percent) in its last four home games.

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